I am moving to a new job soon.  I’ve been in the same area for about seven months, but next week (heck, next year) I will move on and do something else.  I can’t believe my time there is almost finished.  It’s been quite a ride, and I’m going to miss it.  I took my coworkers out for lunch today to thank them for all they’ve done.  They’ve all been a huge support, and I appreciate their help immensely.  I took them out today for a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant highly recommended by a friend of mine.  Her tastes are impeccable, and her restaurant choices are excellent. 
The meal was delicious as expected.  I wouldn’t have expected anything less from an upscale Italian restaurant.  The garlic bread with vinegar and oil, leafy green salad, rice pilaf, spaghetti carbonara, espresso, and gelato took me away from Korea for a brief respite.  I soon came back to reality when the waiter brought out a plate of red chilis and sweet pickles.  Chilis and sweet pickles served at an Italian restaurant?  You’ve got to be kidding!  Oh, yes.  Sweet pickles are a nod to the Korean palate.  Western-style restaurants can’t very well get away with serving customers a vat of aromatic kimchi, so they subtly substitute innocuous sweet pickles instead.  I can’t get away from sweet pickles at my favorite Italian restaurant (another one) near my office, nor at my favorite Indian restaurant, and I couldn’t escape them when I ate at a fabulous French restaurant in Busan.  The only foreign cuisine I’ve found in Korea not subjected to the tinge of sweet pickles is Mexican cuisine.  Of course, chili peppers are a staple in Mexican food, so Koreans merely substitute chilis for kimchi. 
It seems that no matter where you are–in Korea, the U.S., or elsewhere–you just can’t get away from food localization.  Restaurants serving foreign cuisine will always tailor it to local tastes.  That’s fine, but I think I’ll pass on the sweet pickles. 

Books by MG EdwardsMG Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures and children’s books. A former U.S. diplomat, he served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia before leaving the Foreign Service to write full time.

Edwards is author of six books. His memoir, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, was finalist for the Book of the Year Award and the Global eBook Award. He has published four children’s picture books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series: Alexander the Salamander; Ellie the Elephant; Zoe the Zebra; and a collection featuring all three stories. His book Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories is an anthology of 15 short stories.

Edwards lives in Taipei, Taiwan with his family. He has also lived in Austria, Singapore and Thailand. For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or contact him by e-mail at me@mgedwards.com or on Twitter @m_g_edwards.

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1 Comment

  1. Robert's Gravatar Robert
    December 29, 2005    

    You reminded me of some fond memories.When my new wife and I first returned stateside she always had pickles after any meal that wasn’t Korean.When I asked why she told me it calmed her craving for kimchee.Well 27 years later she is a bit more Americanized and I haven’t seen her eat any pickles in years.

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